Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Professional Development in Technology: Catalyst for School Reform

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Professional Development in Technology: Catalyst for School Reform

Article excerpt

This case study of teachers' professional development in instructional technology explores three assumptions. The first is that teachers are at various levels in their knowledge and use of technology, and that these levels are developmental. Teachers' levels of knowledge and use are described using a classification of teachers' developmental levels of knowledge and skill in applying technology in the classroom along a continuum of "nonreadiness," "survival," "mastery "impact," and "innovation." The second assumption is that staff development for instructional technology needs to be based on what are currently construed as "best practices" for teachers' professional development. Current best practices suggest that while staff development may begin with conventional inservice training, it should move quickly beyond to efforts that support teachers' development as professionals involved in decision-making, inquiry, and leadership in their classroom teaching. In order to develop as professionals, teachers specifi cally need help and support in integrating new knowledge and skills into their classroom practice. The case data offer valuable support for theorizing about teachers' professional development in technology that characterizes the professional literature. The third assumption for this study is that teachers' professional development in technology may well serve to further larger goals of school reform. This assumption is addressed in a discussion of what was observed to be the infrastructure that already exists and that is still needed to support teachers' continuing development in technology at the school studied. Attention must be paid to this infrastructure both to understand and to affect the kind of change necessary for school reform. As technology changes the ways that schools themselves are structured, efforts to meld innovation in instructional technology with best practices in teachers' professional development catalyzes other elements of school reform.

For over three years the middle school that was the site for this study developed a reputation in the district for doing a good job helping teachers become knowledgeable about technology and how to integrate it into their curriculum. This particular school offers an interesting site for investigation because it is representative of a great many schools in this country in terms of what is available in the way of technology equipment and support for its use, as well as in terms of where teachers are in their knowledge and use of technology (Fabry & Higgs, 1997). Although roughly 90% of the teachers in this particular school have completed district training requirements necessary to receive a personal computer (a "teacher tool," to use the district language) for their classroom use, the school is hardly on the cutting edge of technology. Computers remain centrally located in "labs," school-wide access to the Internet and the district network have recently occurred, both software and hardware are at least three to five years behind current technology standards, and most teachers still view technology as adjunct rather than integral to their teaching. Nonetheless, this school is one where attention is being paid to teachers' professional development in the area of technology, and where there is interest in how that development can best be encouraged and supported. [1]

On the basis of this reputation the school was chosen for a case study of how the efforts in staff development in technology were supporting teachers in learning and using technology, and also whether this emphasis on technology was causing changes on a school wide level. The study of this school employed mixed qualitative methods of survey, field observations and interviews to explore teachers' professional development needs, and how meeting these needs can lead to changes in conventional school structures and practices that reflect current ideas about school reform (Hargreaves, 1994; Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, & Rasmussen; Means, Blando, Olson, Middleton, Morocco, Remz, & Zorfass). …

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